Children will be able to buy R18+ computer games in WA from January 1 unless State Parliament rushes through laws to restrict the sale or agrees to ban the violent or sex-themed video games.
The new adults-only classification will be applied to more explicit games under a Commonwealth censorship scheme and was agreed to by attorneys-general around the country last year.
But because WA still has not updated the legislation that would control the sale, possession or display of R18+ games, there would be nothing to prevent retailers selling them to minors, a parliamentary committee was warned yesterday.
Current $5000 fines in WA apply only to the illegal sale of MA15+ games - the highest existing classification given to the popular computer games until the new rating is introduced at the start of next year.
"The consequences are that R18+ computer games that are suitable for adults only would be able to be purchased by children," Frank Morisey, from the Department of Attorney-General, told the legislation and statutes review committee. "Retailers would be able to sell them to children with impunity."
With the committee not due to report to Parliament until November 6, only six sitting days will remain for both the Upper and Lower Houses to pass the new laws before Parliament finishes on November 15 and stays in recess until after the State election in March.
The Barnett Government's legislative program has hit trouble, with Bills before Parliament shelved or likely to become election issues.
Committee member and Liberal MP Nick Goiran said the computer games issue was "urgent" and asked if Parliament might have to ban R18+ items until sale restrictions were agreed.
Mr Goiran fears the introduction of the new rating will dilute or replace the existing "Refused Classification" label given to games ruled unsuitable for sale.
He said he attended a briefing by former WA attorney-general Christian Porter who said 80 per cent of the new R18+ games would come from the RC category.
Attorney-General Michael Mischin told Parliament last month there would be "no dilution" of the RC classification.
WA's Commissioner for Children and Young People Michelle Scott told yesterday's hearing that she and other commissioners opposed the new rating.
"My main concern is that we are now going to introduce a level of violence that children and young people weren't exposed to before," she said.